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Dorris Lessing Passes On - Poem by alexander opicho

DORIS LESSING: A FEMINIST, POET, NOVELIST, WHITE-AFRICANIST AND NOBELITE UN-TIMELY PASSES ON

Alexander K Opicho
(Eldoret, Kenya; aopicho@yahoo.com)


I mourn this white daughter of Africa
With an old white dirge
From the yellow land of Americas
In the avaricious venture of whale hunting
Well decried a gnome of death
O death! O death! Why are you untimely?
To which the white daughter of Africa
Rationalized; it is a chance to live
In the Mara and Dann all of us are to be killed
Why should you waste your body waters on tears?
It was on Monday 18th of November 2013 that I had written a poem on African literature, which I entitled; literature without poetry is like love without vaginal sex. In this poem I appreciated Doris Lessing’s fourteen poems in two lines that, Doris Lessing should not dare dream of the testicles of Tagore and Soyinka as she is no Match to the six hundred and sixty six concubines of David the psalteristic Jewish rex. Then the next day in the morning, which was Tuesday 19th November 2013 I also finished reading Lessing’s spellbinding novel, Mara and Dann, thereon I walked off to my office. I chose to go for online news. My favorite paper is the Germany online paper Deutschwelle. I flipped in the hyperlink for global news and then to my favorite hyperlink; culture. Like looking at hell I came face to face with a doomsday of a title; The British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing died peacefully at home at the age of 94.
A whole day was ruined for me.Nothing good followed. I shared this page of Deutschwelle which carried information about Lessing’s death on my twitter and face book platforms. Until now, the time of writing this article, there are very minimum responses on the both the social media platforms given the poor reading culture and low level of intellectual curiosity that currently reign the contemporary world.
Like all other white literary sons and daughters of Africa, Doris Lessing is a prolific writer, reluctant feminist icon, human rights activist, anti apartheid crusader, humanist and a white African intellectual. She is a seasoned storyteller, loyal and committed to the power of the written word with maximum passion for reading and literature in all of its diversities of the African literary set up. She often has appreciated African prose, drama, orature, poetry and recently before her death cyborature as some of her works has been common on the electronic social media. Doris Lessing was not alone in the realm of this marginalized cultural and literary civilization, she got companionship from other fellow white Africanists in the likes of J M Coatzee, Nadime Gordimer, Peter Abrahams, Allan Paton, Alex La Guma, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, Jerry Rawlings, Sirleaf Johnson, Naquib Mafouz and Frederick De Klerk as well as very many others whose commitment to African intellectual and Political freedom was portrayed in their several and a times collective social unsentimentality, intellectual provocativeness and ideological uncompromising in guest for re-africanization of the continent through mental decolonization with a sole purpose of overcoming colonial legacy of self-doubt. All this was done through one literary virtue of formidable and respective literary oeuvres that wove together the threads of lived African experience and avaricious politics in world history with an unswerving commitment to the art of poetry, orature and protic storytelling.
Humbly like all other African writers in the name of Ba, Coatze, Achebe, Soyinka and Ngugi, just but to mention; She was Born Doris May Tayler on October 22,1919, in Kermanshah, Persia now the revolutionary republic of Iran. Her birth coincided with two world cultural events; the success of Leninist revolution in Russia and the end of the First World War. These events were an open foreshadowing of Lessing’s future cultural influence on the African English civilization. Lessing would later come to discover that her parents had been depraved by the First World War. Her father was on umpteen times nearly killed by shrapnel in 1917 and which of course left him with lost a leg. Dramatically, like the ones which Doris has crafted, Her mother who was a nurse met her father Mr. Lessing, during this time he was undergoing treatment at the hospital in London where he was recovering from the amputation of the leg.
Then in 1925 the family moved to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia the current Zimbabwe to farm corn and maize. The farm on which Doris grew up as a daughter of any other African farmer. This is given in the historical evidence that always the family struggled to make a living. In her public speeches Doris remembers several times when she was not fighting or running away from the mother who was often brutal to her, out into the African cold temperatures. These are supposedly inhuman conditions that Doris despised in her spellbinding Novel the Grass is singing.
Muse on such moments would always not fail to give us a tincture of poetry;
Ash pit start is not ash pit end
Agony in the start is gusto in the end
Gods will give you a throne
Even in the mire of your scum
Hustles of life are mere fibers of glory.
In practical but not rudimentary literature there is a critical position that small education produces great writers. A list on which Lessing will be last of great writers with meager education starts with Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Richard Wright, Alice Munro, Sembene Ousmane, Amos Tutuola, David Mailu, William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, I mean the list is endless, put we can put the 2007 literature Nobel Prize winner Doris May Lessing as the last. Then how did she like these others on the list come to master the game of writing?
Passion, language and sometimes disciplined Autodidactism is the answer. Lessing chose to be immersed in books sent over from a London book club after she had left school at the age of 14.This is also when she had moved to Salisbury the present Harare to work as a telephone operator. These are the same childhood experiences Sembene Ousmane had when he worked as a young pipe smoking railway builder in Dakar, cultural foundations that inspired him with the spirit of God’s Bits of Wood. Later on after some social upheavals, Doris was influenced by the influx of European immigrants in Salisbury most of them were Jewish intellectuals who had fled the Nazi regime in Germany. This gave Lessing an opportunity to experience political awakenings. She became a member of the communist Left Book Club. In this intellectual club socialization is when she met and married her second husband German refugee from Nazi terror at home Gottfried Lessing. This is the father of her favorite son and their only child, Peter Lessing who was born in 1947.
Life is a mishmash of gloom and glory
A blend of sorrow and sweetness
A twig of brambles and plums
A meat of a hare too delicious
But because of fast running
So hard to harvest.
Now, after African childhood Lessing arrived in England as a single mother with no formal qualifications. Just the way Wole Soyinka arrived in England with a weak bachelor’s degree. However, both of them rose to become two of the most important figures in post-war Afro-English literature. Soyinka with the past deep in the colonial heritage of West Africa and Lessing with past deep in apartheid dominated Southern Africa. Lessing’s literary debut about interracial relations in colonial Africa left the audiences bamboozled both in Europe and the USA.
Later on due to her Mixing with members of the left-wing literary intellectuals like; among them John Berger, John Osborne and Bertrand Russell as well as many others, Doris Lessing became an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and an outspoken critic of apartheid in South Africa these made her to be banned from entering South Africa and Rhodesia on account of her political views. She combined these virtues with her stretches as a reluctant feminist to release her greatest work, The Golden Notebook in 1962. In this book, Doris Lessing explores themes of feminism, communism, motherhood, and mental breakdown as an outcome of oppressive political culture.
Lessing’s literary virtues are a lot, they can only be condensed in the words of the English novelist and critic Margaret Drabble; ‘a writer who said the unsayable, thought the unthinkable, and fearlessly put it down there.’
Later on in her life Doris Lessing also won a social cum intellectual accolade only which was labeled the professional contrarian. This was after her achievement of disillusionment with utopian and prosaic communism. She then went ahead to discovered Sufi mysticism in the mid-1960s and wrote a series of five science-fiction novels known as the Canopus in Argos sequence. Then immediately amid Frustrations with the literary establishment of the day that was hostile to her rebellious nature, Lessing published two novels under the pseudonym Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbor (1983) and If the Old could (1984) . The intention was to expose terror of the publishers to a writer without fortune and fame. Then in 2007, when being awarded a literature Nobel Prize, the Swedish academy jury praised her as author and the epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.
In her final book, Alfred & Emily (2008) , Lessing returned fully to her childhood in Southern Rhodesia. The first half is a novella about how life might have been for her parents if they had managed to escape the horrors of the First World War; then the second half is a biography of her parents.
Utterly repulsive to all forms of sentimentality
Proponent of non-linear thinking,
Never bowed to convention
Novelist, playwright, poet, biographer, librettist and essayist
Was first and foremost Africanist storyteller
One whose faith in the power of the written word
Never wavered nor perambulated.
Doris Lessing once said that she does not know why she writes. That writing is something just she has to do. If she does not write for any length of time she gets very irritable. If she had to stop she would probably start wandering the streets, telling herself stories out loud.
Any way this year alone, the world of literature has lost a lot of literary stakeholders through death. And misfortune is felt heavy in Africa. However, We the living ones, we are guided by faith that; in their death which took them this year 2013, Doris Lessing, Chinua Achebe, Kofi Owonor, and Seamus Heaney they will all remain formidable, multifaceted and provocative tellers of stories for world and diverse generations of readers to come.


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